A Christian school in Southern Kentucky that opened to in-person classes this month switched to virtual instruction after two students tested positive this week for COVID-19, according to the Lake Cumberland District Health Department.
Classes began at the Gospel Christian School in Clinton County on Aug. 4. Health department officials said they understood it switched to virtual instruction this week.
The 10-county health department noted the closing on its site. Shawn Crabtree, director of the health department, said Thursday that several students were in contact with a student who tested positive.
Crabtree said his understanding is the school decided to close to in-person instruction for two weeks and hopes to return to classroom instruction after that.
Efforts to reach the school Wednesday were unsuccessful. It appears to be the first school in the state to start in-person classes and then switch to virtual because of coronavirus cases.
Crabtree said during a briefing Wednesday that he understands the desire many parents and school officials have to get kids back in classrooms.
“Kids are missing out by not being able to go to school,” he said.
But with hundreds of young people in school for several hours a day, “the disease will spread,” Crabtree. said.
The risk in that is causing a spike in cases that could potentially increase hospitalizations and deaths, he said.
Gov. Andy Beshear asked schools to wait until at least Sept. 28 to resume in-person instruction to help limit the spread of coronavirus.
Most have said they will comply, but some private schools opted to start earlier. Among public schools, Green County was the first to start in-person classes, going back to school on Monday.
The Clinton County christian school stopped in-person classes voluntarily, but Attorney General Daniel Cameron on Wednesday issued an opinion stating that state and local officials cannot order the closure of religious schools that comply with social distancing and health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The opinion says that the Governor, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and other officials are prohibited from closing religiously affiliated schools in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and state law.
“The law prohibits the state from mandating the closure of religiously affiliated schools that are complying with recommended health guidelines,” said Cameron. “Our courts have consistently held, throughout this pandemic, that religious entities are protected by our Constitution. Religiously affiliated schools are an important extension of faith for many Kentucky families, and the state cannot prevent them from operating so long as necessary health precautions are observed.”
In response, Beshear said Wednesday at his news conference that nobody was trying to shut down a school that was complying.
On Tuesday, Beshear discussed the Clinton County school’s positive case and its switch to virtual without identifying the school.
“With only a couple of individual schools now reopened, we know that one has already had to move to virtual based on a COVID positive kiddo that we hope gets better,” he said.
Beshear said Wednesday that he wasn’t making political decisions with the recommendation to delay in-person learning until Sept. 28, but was trying to do the right thing in the face of the pandemic.